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Archive for January 2010

Death, Dying and Life

This past two weeks I have gotten calls about four deaths. One was about a neighbor’s dad who died of lung cancer, another about a young mother who died of breast cancer, another of an 18 year old whom we have known he and his family for a number of years who died in a car accident, and then of my mother-in-law who died after a 14 year battle with emphysema.

The Bible says that death is an enemy. I agree. Death stinks. It is reality, all of realize that. We know that none of us are immortal.

I have done a number of funerals over my 27 years of ministry. I have noticed over those years that I can usually pick out those who have hope and know of eternal life in heaven from those who don’t. Its the eyes and face. The people who have hope and know of the promise of eternal life are those who believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins AND that He rose from the dead and defeated death.

Just this past week I chatted with an elder from our church. He pointed out two verses that pretty much summarize the Gospel.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” Psalm 116.15

I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked but rather that they turn from their ways and live Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” Ezekiel 33.11

Wow, what a concept. God delights when He sees a saint die. Not that He is happy about the grieving, mourning and takes a morbid joy in seeing people die. No, God delights knowing that that person is coming to Heaven and will be spending eternity with Him!

However, God takes no delight or pleasure in seeing a sinner die. He is sad because that person has rejected God and the Gospel and will spend an eternity totally separated from God and live in hell for eternity.

We don’t like death, but know that God is pleased knowing when a believer dies, he/she will be with God forever!

Meals for Mali Testimonials

Over the last three years, CCC has partnered with the Malian national church’s humanitarian organization (called ODES) to purchase, pack, ship, and distribute nearly 250,000 meals to Malian women and children in poverty. Here are just three of the thousands of stories of how these meals have changed the lives of the Malian people.

My name is Maimouna Poudiougo. I’m 23 years old and I am married. I’m the mother of two boys. My one son, Dramane, is 21 months old. At the age of one he began to lose weight and his arms and legs seemed to be getting thinner. My husband would often yell at me. He would accuse me of not giving our son enough milk, but I was doing all that I could. This conflict over my son’s health led to unhappiness in our home. It was at this time in our lives when Mr. Bakary Koita, an agent for ODES-Mali started intervening in our village. He helped to organize a small group where we had the opportunity to discuss some of our problems. He then introduced us to a program that they wanted to start in our village.

He explained how our children would be weighed and how that weight would be compared to others kids the same age to see if the child was within their weight range. When they weighed my son he was 5 kilograms (11 pounds). At that time he was 19 months old. My son and I were admitted into the program. After starting to eat the rice meals I could tell there was a difference in my son. He was finally growing and he looked healthy again. He really liked the rice meals and ate well. After one month he was weighed again and this time he weighed in at 10 kilograms (22 pds). I rejoice for my son’s health and I can now live at peace knowing that my husband will not be able to accuse me any longer. I take this opportunity to thank you, all the partners of Mr. Bakary.

My name is Salimata Poudiougo. I’m 32 years old and am married. I have 6 children, 2 of which are girls. ODES allowed me to weigh my little children. In this picture I’m holding Fatoumata who is 21 months old. At the initial weigh in she was 5 kilograms (11 pds) and I was told that she was very behind developmentally. She was admitted into the food program and after just a few days of eating the rice packets there was a huge change in her appearance and demeanor. This continued on progressively throughout the month and I watched my child transform in front of me. She regained her appetite and after one month she had gained 3 kilograms (6.6 pds). I want to thank ODES and all those that contributed to the wellness of my daughter. You have done well. My prayer is that God will repay you with the goodness you have shown me. Thank you.

The child in this picture is Ousmane Saye. His father is Amagana Saya. Ousmane is 12 months old and it was about 6 months ago that we started to notice that he was depressed. From morning to night he was not happy. He seemed to be sick, but he had no fever or other symptoms. It was in this state the he was weighed by ODES along with the other children in the village. I was told that he was mal-nourished and that he was being entered into a program that would help him. He went from weighing 6.5 kilograms (14 pds) to 7.5 kilograms (16 pds) after just one month of eating the rice meals. He is now a happy little boy and I’m so thankful for all that ODES has done in helping our children.

What's a Mark Sandwich?


We’ve been having a blast studying Mark’s biography of Jesus each week in Jesus Class. Last week we encountered the first of several examples of the Mark Sandwich. Mark tends to take a piece of one story and weave it into another in order to create a more interesting story line. Much the same thing happens all the time when you watch a movie that skillfully cuts one scene to another then flashes back to the first.

Here are a few helpful comments from gospels scholar R.T. France on the Sandwich:

“Mark’s gospel was designed for oral transmission – and for transmission as a continuous whole rather than for private study or silent reading. Various features of Mark’s style seem to reflect such a purpose notably his more expansive story telling manner… Such features make for a more memorable text, and make it easier for the listener, who does not have the option of stopping and turning back to refresh his or her memory, to keep the flow of the narrative in mind. The ‘sandwich’ technique is a well-tried device of the popular raconteur in order to hold the audience’s attention.”

“Mark is a master at the narrative art of sandwiching one story or scene within another (also called interpolation, intercalation, dovetailing, framing, etc). Most of Mark’s sandwiches are created by the interweaving of contemporary events in such a way that one helps to interpret the other. Notable examples are the enclosure of the scribal accusation that Jesus is in league with the devil within the story of his own family’s attempt to restrain him because they thought he was mad (Mk 3:21-35), the more complex interweaving of the destruction of the fig tree with the demonstration against the ‘fruitless temple’ (Mk 11:11-27), and the parallel scenes of the trial of Jesus and the ‘trial’ of Peter which are interwoven (Mk 14:53-15:1).”

“Not only does he enclose one story within another, but he likes to set up parallel scenes and move the spotlight successively between them. This is a proven narrative and dramatic technique, to maintain interest and to allow the reader/hearer to gain a wider perspective on the constituent elements of the story, placing one alongside another so that they become mutually illuminating.”

The Gospel of Mark (NIGTC) – by R. T. France (pp 9-10, 18-19).

Jake's Funeral


Maybe you saw it on the news last night. Jake Herweyer, former Millard West student, popular wrestler, whose parents attend CCC, died in a tragic car accident. He graduated last spring. As an athlete, he helped Millard West to a state championship in football. In wrestling, he finished his senior season 38-1.

But far more important than his athletics is the fact that God was turning his life around. Since a stay in the hospital in June, Jake had immense personal, moral and spiritual growth. He began attending Calvary Chapel, which meets at Millard North. He heard the words of life. He trusted Christ. His parents even heard Christian music replacing the normal, well, “nasty-stuff” coming out of his ever-present headphones that he slung around his neck.

He had been headed down a dark path until Jesus, the light of the world crashed in with hope, words of life and power.

He was only 18 years old. Think about it. People at that age rarely think about death. But Jake did his business with God. He reached out and took Jesus’ nail-scarred outstretched hand and let him pull him out of his muck. Jake experienced new life for a short time on planet earth, but will spend eternity with Jesus, me, and billions who trusted Him – in a kingdom with no more crying or mourning or death or pain. Jake has a new body, a new mind, and direct contact with the living God of the universe who loves him and fills him up.

So you’re reading this blog…you don’t know when you’ll flip a car and breathe your last. If you’ve never asked the spiritual questions, perhaps this moment can serve as a sobering moment for you.

Have you done business with God? Have you trusted the one who took the nails to forgive you and bring you life? Have you found his ultimate life by putting yourself in his hands? If not, you need to. And there is no time like the present. Jake made the right moves in the past few months and all heaven rejoices over him!

You may need to stop right now and pray. God wants to forgive your past and pave the road for your future. God wants to lead your life and give you his blessings. Tell him that you trust him and want him in every aspect of your life. Then get around some followers of Jesus who ‘get it’ and ask them to help you grow in your faith.

And while you’re praying, please pray this week for the parents, Denny and Elaine, Jake’s sister Jenna and Jake’s brother Trevor. They are going to need strength, encouragement, and comfort in these very difficult times. Pray for me, and the other Pastor – Todd from Calvary Chapel – as we officiate the service and try to bring hope from desperation. Friday, 3pm at CCC.

Book Review – Think Orange

Think Orange by Reggie Joiner is a book I read this week. It is an outstanding book. Definitely the best I have read in 2010 🙂

The basic premise is this: In the church, there are dozens of hours a year to be involved in the spiritual formation process of a child (about 75 hours at CCC). At home, a parent has over 3000 hours to influence a child in a given year. Many churches make the false assumption that the church is the primary place children grow in their faith.

Joiner posits the question “What if the family and the church partnered together in significant ways to mold the next generation?” What if resources and training were made available for parents of kids? What if programming was adapted to include parents in the preparation of the kids, or the event itself, or the follow up? What if resources were given to parents to accelerate the spiritual depth of their kids along the normal rhythms of life?

Think Orange not only gives me good memories of the Fighting Illini, but it is also humorous, insightful and asks challenging questions about raising a generation of kids who will cling to Jesus through college years and into the future. A must-read for childrens ministry workers and high recommendation for parents, kids ministry volunteers, and other church staff.

Gaining Wisdom

I read Proverbs 4:7-10 in my quiet time this morning. “Getting wisdom is the wisest thing youcan do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment. If you prize wisdom, she will make you great. Embrace her, and she will honor you. She will place a lovely wreath on your head; she will present you with a beautiful crown.”

So where do you get wisdom? Ultimately, God’s word is the obvious place. James says that if we ask God he will give us wisdom. The proverbs also say that “In many counselors there is much wisdom.” How far should you go to gain this wisdom? The Proverbs would indicate we should go to extreme lengths to gain wisdom.

This has been my pursuit this week. At the 900+ conference, where I have spent the last four days, I have had the privilege of interacting with the lead pastors of about 10 of the largest churches in the alliance, as well as our president and VP. What I find here is wisdom…in spades. The ‘megachurch pastors fraternity’ is a pretty small group with lots of very complex and very similar issues. The wisdom they have about staffing, leadership structure, finances, vision, risktaking, theology, sloppy moral situations, elders and avoiding burnout is stunning.

I could not design a better conference for gaining wisdom and personal development. I am so glad this was set up before I ever entered the scene. It is a lifeline for many of the pastors in this group to gain wisdom and make good decisions. And that could make all the difference.

So, I’ll ask you. Who is investing in your life? Who are the counselors who bring you wisdom? Who are the people that enable you to live at a higher level a love at a deeper level? Get them in your life because wisdom is worth pursuing.

First 2010 Mali Team is Off!

The first of three short-term teams that will be heading to Mali over the next four weeks just left today (Friday, January 22nd). This team is being led by Pastor Dusty White and includes the following guys:

Dusty White
Glen Beed
DJ Hornacek
Mervin Johnson
Chuck Rezac
Chad Swanson
Robert Williams

They will be doing some construction and remodeling of the ODES headquarters in the capital city of Bamako. ODES is an organization that is run by the C&MA; national church in Mali. ODES provides compassionate and humanitarian aid to the Malian people. For instance, when CCC sent food to Mali in the Meals for Mali project over the last few years, it was the people in ODES that distributed those meals.

Be praying for these guys that they will be healthy, safe, and have real Kingdom impact while they are in Mali. Dusty will be sending some updates via email and they will be posted on this blog, so keep reading.

CMA stats – Good News/Bad News

Christ Community Church is a part of a broader family called the Christian and Missionary Alliance (a.k.a. The Alliance or CMA). This week, I have been spending time at a conference for Alliance pastors with churches over 900 attenders. Also at the conference is Gary Benedict, the president of the Alliance, his VP – John Soper, and various board members.

Here are some great stats I heard this week that I thought I would pass on:

The Alliance is the largest denomination that has positive growth. Some smaller denominantions are growing faster, but no larger denominations are growing at all.

The Alliance has 26 districts and 2050 churches. If you remove the fastest 2 growing churches in each district (totaling 52), we are shrinking.

A traditional church plant takes 6 years and $800,000 of outside support until it is healthy and self-sustaining. A multisite takes $250,000 and under 2 years.

The Great Commission Fund, (which funds our 800+ missionaries) is in the black by 2% for the first time in many years.

in 2009, the Alliance grew by 11,000 people. We started 44 churches averaging 100 people each and shut down 38 churches that average 20 people each.

In Haiti, there are 150 indigenously led Alliance churches. Our CMA efforts will do our giving through these churches as well as World Releif.

Ralph Winter, one of the leading missiologists of the last 50 years said this “The Alliance is the ONLY denomination tha has successfully planted missionary-sending churches in foreign nations.”

Oprah’s Optimism

Pick up a newspaper and pessimism dominates the headlines. Fears of gangs, flu’s, global warming, earthquakes, violence and cyber-bullies grab our attention. As a result, dark news is front and center.

Every so often I grab a magazine that there is ‘no way I’ll read.’ In airports, doctor’s waiting rooms, or at Barnes and Noble I’ll gravitate toward stuff that is clearly out of my normal sphere of understanding. It keeps me in touch with all parts of the world and occasionally provides good sermon humor.

So, today I pulled out a copy of “O”, the Oprah magazine. In it Oprah lists 100 things that are getting better. Reallly? Better? From Dry Cleaning to Designer Jeans to Dads, Oprah sees a lot that is improving in our culture. I don’t agree with every comment in the article, but Kudos to Oprah and her team for their optimism. Here are a few of my favs:

#4 Apps to help you lose weight: Is that a gym in your iPhone? iFitness lets you build a custom workout. iTreadmill turns your phone into a pedometer, Lose It! Tracks how many calories you’ve burnied in every workout and WeightBot charts your daily progress.

#5 Polyester: Who doesn’t love the softness of a microfiber throw, the convenience of wrinkly-free sheets? Both can be attributed to the once-hidden charms of those much maligned twins, Polly and Esther.

#8 Our Lungs: This just in from the CDC: The number of American adults who smoke has dropped from 24.7 percent in 1997 to 20.6 percent in 2008; at last count, 38 states, the District of Columbia, and 360 cities have banned cigarettes in workplaces, bars, or restaurants –which means no more unintentionally smoked salmon.

#33 Surgery: Removing an organ through a ninny nick in the skin; using radio waves or ultrasound to destroy a tumor without a single cut – in the past decade, the kinds of medical procedures once seen in sci-fi novels have arrive in the OR, often performed in an outpatient basis with minimal pain and recovery time.

#53 Chips: Spicy Thai, Cheddar, sweet chili sour cream, crab boil, honey Dijon, chocolate, jalapeno… No one can just eat one bag.

#92 Tatoo Removal: Love may come and love may go. Tattoos? Not so fast, kiddo. But advances in lasers – better pigment recognition and deeper skin penetration – are making it easier to hike the evidence of a failed romance or an Aerosmith obsession.

Joiner on Churches

I’ve been reading a book by Reggie Joiner this week; “Think Orange.” It is actually about impacting the next generation by combining the forces of church and home. But the quote I like best so far is about critiquing other churches.

“Some leaders suggest that institutional churches can never be relational
That traditional churches can never be relevant,
That megachurches can never be intimate,
that attractional churches are not missional,
that missional churches don draw people,
that emergent churches never teach anything substantial,
that seeker churches don’t have depth,
and that organic churches don’t have any direction.

We love to neatly package another leader’s style of church into a box and label it irregular or defective. We accuse the church we abandoned and defend the version we have customized. No one is more opinionated about church models than I am.
Throughout my life, I have realized God is doing something in a lot of different styles of church. We need to be careful about demonizing those who don’t practice church the way we do and learn from every version of church whose mission is to lead people into a better and more authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. God is a lot bigger than our definitions or labels, and I am sure He is not worried about how your church compares to the one down the road.”